Chronic osteomyelitis: Results obtained by an integrated team approach to management

Jose Salvana, Craig Rodner, Bruce D. Browner, Karen Livingston, Jonathan Schreiber, Edward Pesanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: The pathology of chronic osteomyelitis suggests that thorough debridement of bone and soft tissue, with closure of dead space, supported by appropriate antibiotics would be the optimal therapeutic strategy. Methods: In 1993, we formed a multidisciplinary Bone Infection Team (orthopaedic surgeon, infectious diseases specialist, plastic surgeon, and nurse practitioner) to apply those principles to the treatment of chronic osteomyelitis. We present the outcomes of such therapy in 82 patients treated by the Team in the first seven years. All patients underwent surgical debridement with other procedures including bone distraction, muscle flap implantation and bone grafts as necessary to foster restoration of bone and soft-tissue integrity. Antibiotic choice was based on sensitivity data, with a short course of intravenous antibiotics and a prolonged course of oral antibiotics being the usual therapy. Results: During the first seven years, we treated 82 patients for chronic osteomyelitis. Most patients required multiple surgical procedures (mean = 2.2), with 10 patients requiring five or more operations. Staphylococcus aureus was the single most common pathogen, although the majority (57%) of the infections were polymicrobial. Intravenous antibiotics were administered for a median of 16 days; 16 patients received intravenous antibiotics only during the immediate perioperative period. Oral antibiotics were administered for a median of 59 days. The infection was cured in all but one patient in our clinic; the remaining patient had definitive surgical repair at another clinic and is now infection free. In 77/82 patients, the limb afflicted with chronic osteomyelitis was salvaged. Because of extensive damage to bones and surrounding soft tissues, amputation was necessary in five patients. Five patients required internal fixation 12 or more months after the infection was controlled for nonunion; all such procedures were successful. No patient whose infection remained inactive for six or more months after surgical debridement has reactivated the infection during a median follow-up of 56 months (range:23-89 months). Conclusions: Management of chronic osteomyelitis requires thorough debridement of infected bone and soft tissues coupled with rigid, stabilization with external fisators, elimination of dead space, often requiring soft-tissue flap coverage, and staged bone reconstruction. When such a surgical approach is accompanied by appropriate antibiotics based on the sensitivity of the microbes isolated from the infected site, the infected focus is eliminated and bone length and integrity are restored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-202
Number of pages8
JournalConnecticut Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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